Waking up with Hurricane Irma

Veronica Vega

Frame from a home made video after Irma.

HAVANA TIMES — When I see photos of pseudo-Republican Cuba, I can understand the sadness that has eaten away at generations born in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Relatives and friends who drag the experience (hushed or outwardly) of having witnessed the collapse of a country in full-on development.

Even with the countless administrative and social failures that had caused people’s unhappiness and led to revolution, all of the destruction that we can see today wasn’t necessary. Neither was civic disability and the dependence on a State wanting to take everything on, took on more than what they were interested in taking, and leaving the rest to wear out over time, exposed to the elements, to the convenient recycling of generations and history’s ambiguity.

Irma has removed the make-up from the cities where it swept through, leaving everything exposed as wounds, the condition of neighborhoods like Central Havana, Caibarien, Camaguey…

I vividly remember the vision that they used to give me at school about the excessive poverty that ate away at the island before 1959 and that feeling of pride when faced with a dream of accomplished justice: “that’s all in the past now.”

Videos (like always, underground ones), which pass around from hand to hand, about the effects of Hurricane Irma in Cuba and protests of crowds demanding electricity and water, reveal the detriment of buildings and the despair of these people who are asked to have patience year after year, while those who are at the reins of power live like the capitalists they criticize, the first world people they discredit, the consumers they demonize.

People are beginning to wake up in spite of their fear and the not at all subliminal warning in the city with the presence of “Black berets”.

On the street, at markets, on buses, I have heard comments that express people being fed up to death with this blind faith while whole generations have seen their homes fall apart in, their bodies deteriorate and they have been forced to witness their families break apart as a result of exile and the price of having colluded with crime just to survive.

Buying, not prosperity but the uncertain present with a loyalty that ends up being worn down, like walls, and stops them from telling the most obvious truth: that many thousands of Cubans don’t have safe enough homes to face a category 4 or 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

The fact that they don’t have the resources to try and recover their material losses, that many people remained in their homes at risk of collapsing because they feared that when they came back they would have to face the fact that they had lost the little they had to some opportunists looting, like has happened in the past on similar occasions. That their complaints to Social Security, the People’s Power and other institutions only pile up in files that then sit around and get dusty.

That after decades of waiting, experiences like the “Special Period” crisis starting in the early 1990s, and the government’s so misguided statements like when after the hurricane they declared that they would give priority to rebuilding tourism infrastructure (while they calmly decide from which country they would or would not receive aid from which means so much to those that have been affected), can suddenly put out the dying embers of a trust that has only been sustained with promises and extensions.

There’s a time for everything, like the Ecclesiastes says. And no matter how long a dream, a trance, lasts, you only need a second to wake up.

Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: For years I had a hard time deciding between writing, painting or dancing. It was writing that proved to make the most sense financially in the short term. I live in Alamar, an aborted project for a city that only breathes from what’s left of nature, from the alternative cultural scene, and above all, from the infinite will of the human soul. I’m not a journalist. Writing in HT has been an opportunity to say what I believe can be improved in Cuba.

  • Moses Patterson

    Sadly, after nearly every hurricane that has hit Cuba in at least the last 10 years, the same comentary has been written and ultimately nothing has changed. Maybe this time….